Fall is a special time of year. The air turns crisp and trees across the land display their brilliant colors. It’s a time for harvests and bringing people together. A new school year gets underway and maybe your favorite sport is finally back for another season. In Germany, fall brings on thoughts of a grand festival whose origins date back to the early nineteenth century. We’re speaking, of course, about Oktoberfest, the enormous beer festival and carnival held each year in Munich. Massive steins of beer are served alongside giant pretzels while brass bands put a Bavarian spin on contemporary hit music. Over the years Oktoberfest has become a global phenomenon with celebrations found throughout the world. From Canada to Australia, come along as we explore the world’s top-10 Oktoberfest celebrations.
Table of Contents
3. Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
7. Villa General Belgrano, Argentina
9. Johannesburg, South Africa
1. Munich, Germany
If you fancy discovering what Oktoberfest is about, why not head to the Oktoberfest celebration? When Crown Prince Ludwig wanted to celebrate his marriage to Princess Therese in 1810, he chose a grassy field just outside the city gates. Later renamed “Theresa’s Meadow,” the fairground remains the site for the world’s largest Oktoberfest celebrations. Each year between late September and the first weekend in October, upwards of six million people gather to consume nearly 7.7 million liters of beer! Germany’s major brewers all sponsor large, temporary pavilions filled with long wooden benches, a raised bandstand, and copious amounts of pretzels and bratwurst. On busy days getting in the door can be tricky. Regulations limit the number of guests allowed at any one time. Once you’ve managed your way in, grab a seat next to some hearty Völk and order yourself a stein. Watch in amazement as servers carry up to twenty liters at a time while weaving past inebriated fairgoers. Lead your table in a cheer as you stand and belt out the German word Prost! Enjoy the endearing sight of elder German musicians playing hits like John Denver’s classic “Take Me Home, Country Roads” to the delight of the entire hall. Don’t forget to allow yourself time to wander past the carnival attractions. Sadly you can’t take your beer on the rides, however.
2. Blumenau, Brazil
It might come as a surprise to learn the country that perfected samba hosts the world’s second-largest Oktoberfest celebrations. Blumenau is located near the coast roughly halfway between São Paulo and Porto Alegre. Following a large flood in 1984, the city looked for a way to draw visitors and help rebuild the local economy. Local leaders decided to hold a major festival modeled on the one in Munich. With that, Oktoberfest Blumenau was born. Each year, upwards of 700,000 people attend and Blumenau’s streets fill with revelers dressed in lederhosen and dirndls. Bavarian-style timber frame construction around Germanic Village Park adds to the atmosphere and sense of merriment. Take a walk by the river and visit the Beer Museum. Enjoy the central city before making your way to the Oktoberfest festivities. Don’t miss the parades that wind their way through town. Watch as contestants vie to be crowned “Queen of Oktoberfest.” Besides the beer and delicious foods, Oktoberfest in Blumenau features sport shooting competitions, traditional German songs, and a folk dancing. Get your picture taken with Granpa and Granma Chopão, the festival’s official mascots. Celebrations here are always lively. If you’re looking for an Oktoberfest with a bit of flair, Blumenau is for you. It’s definitely one of the world’s top-10 Oktoberfest celebrations.
3. Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
Kitchener is a lovely Canadian town in Ontario, the country’s most populous province. Accessible from Toronto in just over an hour, Kitchener hosts Canada’s largest Bavarian festival. The nine-day celebrations culminate on Canadian Thanksgiving Day with a massive parade attracting upwards of 150,000 people. Streets in town are thronged and Canadian television broadcasts the event live to the entire country and parts of the USA. As Canada’s only Thanksgiving Day parade, Kitchener Oktoberfest is akin to the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. German heritage and identity remain strong in this part of Canada. Prior to the First World War, Kitchener was in fact named Berlin. Many residents still speak German, so it’s only natural Oktoberfest celebrations have been incorporated into the local culture. Stretching over several days, the festivities include a number of events aside from beer drinking. There is a barrel race, a five kilometer fun run, a Miss Oktoberfest pageant, and of course, the Thanksgiving Day parade. Make sure to see the Kitchener Glockenspiel on Benton Street and the nearby maypole. There is an official store where you can purchase souvenirs and other Oktoberfest merchandise. You might even see Onkel Hans, the portly official mascot of Kitchener Oktoberfest. Raise a stein to him while you’re enjoying one of the world’s top-10 Oktoberfest celebrations.
Oktoberfest Zinzinnati is the largest Oktoberfest celebration in the United States. Held over three days in late September, it’s always a great affair. During the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, German emigres settled in large numbers across the Midwestern United States. Cities throughout the region love to commemorate their German heritage and make a point to display their roots. The carnival atmosphere in Cincinnati makes it a great place to enjoy Oktoberfest. Before venturing to the festival site near Paul Brown Stadium, visit the city’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. This was once the epicenter of a large Germany working-class community. Many well-preserved nineteenth-century buildings remain as do a raft of new restaurants, brewpubs, and trendy bars. Stop by the always popular Findlay Market, a beloved community institution with a wide variety of food vendors. The day before Oktoberfest you can see the Running of the Wieners and cheer on your favorite dachshund as they compete to be named “King or Queen of the Wiener Dogs.” Take part in the Gemuetlichkeit Games and bring your dancing shoes for the World’s Largest Chicken Dance. The latter is for sure a highlight event at Oktoberfest Zinzinnati and a really fun way to celebrate with your fellow Menschen. America’s largest Oktoberfest has much to recommend. We have no trouble calling this one of the world’s top-10!
5. Brisbane, Australia
Oktoberfest in spring? Huh? That’s exactly what you get at Oktoberfest Brisbane, the largest such festival Down Under. Running two weekends in mid-October, the Brisbane Exhibition Grounds seem as if they’ve been transported to Bavaria. Complete with live-music, carnival games, and barrels of delicious beer, this is one fantastic Oktoberfest celebration. Oktoberfest Brisbane features various entertainment and even educational programs. In previous years, organizers have sponsored looks at Bavaria’s famous Reinheitsgebot, aka the German purity laws. These more than 500-year-old laws regulate how beer is brewed and decree that only water, barley, hops, and yeast are acceptable ingredients. The origin and evolution of these regulations are fascinating and it’s a testament to Oktoberfest Brisbane that organizers make a point to educate fairgoers on this important topic. In true Bavarian tradition, Oktoberfest Brisbane has something for the entire family. In addition to the carnival rides, kids can enjoy face painting, puppet shows, a reptile show, and more. Be sure to see the Brisbane German choir or find out what you’re made of when you participate in the Bavarian Strongman contest. There is an auto show and contest for the best beer brewer as well. Check the festival schedule ahead of time so you don’t miss your favorite events. With so much to do you can easily spend more than a day here, which is why Oktoberfest Brisbane ranks as one of the world’s top-10 Oktoberfest celebrations.
6. Qingdao, China
Northern China’s Shandong Province has an interesting bit of history. In 1898, a relatively young German Empire was eager for overseas territorial possessions. A Prussian fleet arrived in Asia and began exploring Jiaozhou Bay near Qingdao. After a brief skirmish, the Prussians forced the Chinese government to sign a treaty leasing Qingdao and other parts of the Shandong Peninsula to Germany, beginning an imperial occupation that would late until 1914. The short-lived German imperial influence left a lasting mark. Today, Qingdao hosts China’s largest annual Oktoberfest celebrations. Part of the Qingdao International Beer Festival, you can enjoy beer from around the world. There is a thoroughly Chinese vibe on display, making this one of the more unique Oktoberfest celebrations on our list. Concerts, beer tastings, and other quirky events like underwater beer drinking are all on offer. Stop by the Qingdao Beer Museum and budget some time for a walk through Zhongshan Park. The city sports a wine museum if you get tired of all the beer. With consumers in China increasingly interested in sampling high-quality imported beverages, the Qingdao International Beer Festival is a popular event. Come see a Chinese take on this German tradition at one of the world’s top-1o Oktoberfest celebrations.
7. Villa General Belgrano, Argentina
Argentina’s Oktoberfest is second only to Brazil’s in South America. Each year, Villa General Belgrano hosts the country’s National Beer Festival. Running for two weekends in October, the small mountain village tucked away in Central Argentina transforms into an Alpine town, attracting thousands of visitors. German pride is on full display and many people don lederhosen and dirndls to celebrate. Be sure not to miss the parade of communities when delegations from Germany, Denmark, Scotland, Spain, the Canary Islands, Yugoslavia, Sweden, Portugal, Brazil, Greece, Italy, Armenia, Ukraine, and more all dress in traditional attire and march through the central parts of town. At the festival grounds, vendors in the beer garden serve up traditional German dishes, such as Frankfurt sausages, smoked pork ribs, and of course bratwurst. A popular event occurs in the afternoons when the beer barrels are tapped in a lively ceremony. The gathered crowds surge forward and hold their steins aloft trying to capture some of the delicious foam spray. If you don’t fancy this method for filling your mug, don’t worry, there is plenty of beer to go around. Because it’s a relatively small town, this is one Oktoberfest celebration where you want to plan ahead. Book your accommodations before you arrive so you can spend your time enjoy one of the world’s top-10 Oktoberfest celebrations.
8. Yokohama, Japan
Japan’s premier Oktoberfest does not disappoint. For three weeks in October, Yokohama pulls out all the stops and turns the Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse into a giant beer hall. With interior décor meant to mimic that found in Munich beer halls, Yokohama Oktoberfest is a thoroughly convincing substitute. Frist begun in 2003, the festival has grown over the years to attract upwards of 130,000 people. Conveniently located on the waterfront in Central Yokohama, the party here is easy to reach. Stop by when you’re out exploring the city or make a point to send several hours enjoying the food and atmosphere. Traditionally, the main tent restricts itself to beer while a neighboring tent has other alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages on offer. Order yourself a “little beer set” and enjoy a tasty glass together with some delicious clams or a venerable bratwurst. Vegetarians need not worry as Oktoberfest Yokohama does a great job of providing non-meat alternatives. With all the traditional German food and live performances by German bands, you can enjoy a thoroughly authentic Oktoberfest experience. Given the proximity to Tokyo, it’s easy to add a visit to Yokohama Oktoberfest to your Tokyo adventure. Come discover what makes this Japan’s best-known Oktoberfest and why we think this is one of the world’s best celebrations.
9. Johannesburg, South Africa
South Africa’s biggest Oktoberfest party is found in Johannesburg. Extending for two weekends in October, ze TOPS at SPAR Bierfest takes place at the large Montecasino entertainment complex located north of downtown. Montecasino’s Italian-inspired architecture might be more suggestive of Milan than Munich, but once you’re inside it is all Bavaria all the time. A specially created 4,000-seat Bavarian-style beer hall, adorned with authentic décor, helps cement the illusion. South Africa’s own No. 3 Fransen Street Breweries supplies a range of delicious tasting beer, which you should pair with a pretzel, some cheese, a section of meats, or the traditional Bavarian wrust. Visitors are encouraged to wear authentic attire and compete for a chance to win a trip to Munich. There are plenty of family-friendly activities including a bouncy castle and children’s play area. Do you know you know how to milk a cow? How about saw a log? Can you play air guitar? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you can will great prizes when you compete against others in the fun events held throughout the festival. The combination of great fun, food, and beer make this an Oktoberfest well worth attending. If you happen to be in the neighborhood in October, drop in to ze TOPS at SPAR Bierfest, one of the world’s top-1o Oktoberfest celebrations.
10. Hong Kong
Hong Kong is a fabulous destination that offers visitors a wealth of options. From luxury shopping and fine dining to pristine natural parks, Hong Kong remains Asia’s gateway city. Its international reputation attracts visitors from around the world. It should come as no surprise that the city hosts a great Oktoberfest party. The Marco Polo German Bierfest runs for 11 days in late-October. Held at the Marco Polo Hongkong Hotel in the city’s Tsim Sha Tsui neighborhood, this Oktoberfest boasts arguably the best urban scenery of any we’ve profiled. Hong Kong’s incredible skyline will be on full display as you delight in dancing to the sounds provided by Die Notenhobler, a German rock band that’s been entertaining Bierfest fans since 1994. The band’s antics go well with the festival’s popular drinking competitions and traditional games such as the Alphorn-blowing contest and chicken dance. Check ahead for discounts on tickets and specially priced packages that include various benefits such as buy-one-get-one-free beer tickets or discounted children’s tickets. Come for the daily happy hour and stay as the crowds grow and Victoria Harbour comes alive with light. The authentic feeling paired with the magic found in Hong Kong make the Marco Polo German Bierfest easily one of the top-10 Oktoberfest celebrations anywhere in the world.
German culture is enjoying something of a renaissance. The country’s export-led economy and industrial prowess have earned it quite a few admirers around the world. Whether you like BMW or Audi, or just fancy a darn good beer, there is plenty to respect and admire about Germany these days. As the quintessential German culture event, Oktoberfest celebrations are popular the world over. We’ve looked at the top-10 best places to get that authentic Oktoberfest feel. From the original in Munich to Qingdao in China, chances are there’s an Oktoberfest near you. If you’ve ever dreamt of going, there’s never been a better time to scratch this one off your bucket list. Come discover what all the fun is about, come discover the world’s top-10 best Oktoberfest celebrations.